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Could social media end stereotyping?

Could social media end stereotyping?

The media climate generally provides a very distorted mirror of our lives and the people of our community. Most media companies use very rigid segmentation methods such as the use of demographics to understand their audiences. Media companies use very restrictive labels to define us, therefore, if you fall into a certain demographic category you are predictable in certain ways. For example: if you are a woman, media companies will promote fashion or domestic advice and they will avoid advertising and will underrepresent women in other areas of interests such as in sports. As a result of this, our popular culture is based on these presumptions about our demographics and research shows that the 18-49 demographic has had a huge impact on all mass media programming in this country. However, powerful ratings companies disregard viewers of television shows aged over 54.

However, social media applications could potentially free us from some of the absurd assumptions that we have as a society about different people within our community. Social media can help us dismantle some of the demeaning stereotypes that we see in media and advertising about certain minorities.

People who participate in social media networks belong to the same demographic category that media companies and advertiser companies cannot control. The importance of demographics and assigning us under certain categories mean even less now than they did before. Online networking tools has made it easier for us to escape some of the media’s control and we are able to redefine ourselves. Now we can freely connect with people based on our very specific interests. People no longer aggregate around age, gender and income but around their shared interests and values, and this is a far more powerful aggregator of human beings than demographic categories.

Furthermore, research shows that women are the main driving force behind the social media revolution. Worldwide statistics show that in every single age category, women outnumber men in their use of social networking technologies and this is having a huge impact on old media. The question is: what sort of impact is this going to have on our culture, and what is it going to mean for women?

Media companies now are likely to employ a lot more women as they know that women are important for their business. The future of entertainment media is going to be very data-driven and it is going to be based on the information that we ascertain from taste communities online, where women and other minorities are really driving the action.

Let us imagine a media atmosphere that is not dominated by lame stereotypes about gender, other demographic characteristics. Can you even imagine what that would look like?

Nina Porter
Lower Sixth IB Scholar